New law to protect most vulnerable mentally ill comes into force

New law designed to protect the most vulnerable mentally ill people came into force on Monday.

The Mental Capacity Act sets out how decisions should be made when people – including those diagnosed with severe mental health illness – are judged to lack ability to make a decision.

The law ushers in measures for patient-nominated people to make substitute decisions. Such decisions might relate to financial, residential and healthcare issues.

Advance directives, which record the wishes of people on their care and treatment while they have capacity and to be used if they lose capacity, now have legal status.

Advance directives will not, however, apply to treatment given to patients sectioned under the Mental Health Act

An Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy service will provide advocates to represent the most vulnerable people in major welfare decisions.

Chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer, said: “This act gives people with mental health problems more control over their lives, so that they can choose how they are treated if they are unable to make decisions in the future.

“It allows them to choose trusted loved ones to make decisions in their best interests, and empowers them to make choices from dealing with their finances to their day-to-day care.

“Advocacy services will give a voice to some of the most isolated people. Most importantly, it gives people the legal backing to ensure their rights are protected.”

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